A promotional image for "Test," a film set in 1980s San Francisco and directed by Chris Mason Johnson.
A promotional image for "Test," a film set in 1980s San Francisco and directed by Chris Mason Johnson. The film will screen in Charlotte this weekend.
A promotional image for “Test,” a film set in 1980s San Francisco and directed by Chris Mason Johnson.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The GayCharlotte Film Festival opened to audiences last night and will continue with several other films scheduled for screening through the weekend. The event marks several milestones as it enters its sixth year.

Organizer Daniel Valdez says many local LGBT film festivals rarely make it to their fifth year. The GayCharlotte Film Festival has jumped over that hurdle and this weekend partners with the Charlotte Film Society and Charlotte Jewish Film Festival to present three of the films on their schedule.

“I’ve been with the film festival for four years now and we’ve definitely worked really hard at creating partnerships and also having support from groups like the Arts & Science Council and Charlotte Lesbian & Gay Fund,” Valdez says. “Collaboration is something we really strive for, and we’ve been able to collaborate not just inside the LGBT community, but also outside of the LGBT community.”

The festival opened Thursday evening at Theatre Charlotte — where each of the screenings will be held this weekend — with a regional premiere of “Stranger by the Lake,” a French film just released in January and making its rounds now on the gay film festival circuit. “Stranger” was presented in partnership with the Charlotte Film Society.

The film festival will also partner with the Charlotte Jewish Film Festival to present Sunday’s screening of “Out in the Dark,” described as a “modern day gay ‘Casablanca.’” The film tells the story of Palestinian psychology student Nimer and Israeli lawyer Roy. The two begin a relationship, crossing the dangerous political, cultural and geographic divides which separate their two communities.

“One of the things that really makes us different is really trying to find alternative ways of collaborating with partners in the community and to be able to bring films throughout the year,” Valdez says, pointing to the festival’s several screenings each year. “The film festival is really just part of the film series.”

Showcasing a suite of films once each year while also presenting several smaller screenings allows the festival to “find themes relevant to our community and the time of year, films that can speak to those subjects,” Valdez says.

The festival this weekend will also include a panel discussion following the screening of “Test.” The film is based in 1980s San Francisco as the first tests for HIV become available.

Valdez hopes the film and the accompanying panel discussion can offer education and awareness.

“There are a lot of, especially, young kids who really have this misconception of HIV/AIDS,” Valdez says. “Bringing this movie in and talking about these things will be great for our community.”

That screening and discussion is scheduled for Sunday at 4 p.m.

Other screenings are also on deck. On Friday evening, the festival will showcase: “Pit Stop,” “Hot Guys with Guns.” Films continue on April 26: “Valentine Road,” Birthday Cake,” “I Am Divine,” “Stud Life.” On April 27, the festival will wrap up with screenings of “G.B.F.” and “Test.”

All screenings will be held at Theatre Charlotte, 501 Queens Rd. Tickets are $10 at the door or $8 online for each film. Charlotte Film Society members, students and seniors pay just $5.

For more information on the festival and for tickets, visit charlottelgbtfilm.com.

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.